About one quarter of India’s 1.25 billion people are struggling to recuperate from a deadly drought that has affected the subcontinent’s northern regions. Farmlands have been turned into dust bowls and people are desperate to remediate the problem. Coal-fired power plants have been temporarily shut down because of weak river flow, leaving many without electricity. According to The New York Times, the problems stem from irregular weather patterns like El Niño, India’s mismanagement of resources, as well as corruption.
The El Niño weather pattern puts additional heat into the atmosphere, often causing evaporating water supplies in warmer regions. The temperature anomaly heats waters in the pacific region which causes temperature fluctuations across the globe. India has been hit particularly hard this season, causing droughts throughout its northern expanses. Although climatic conditions caused by atmospheric changes cannot be conditioned, preparations in lieu of the incoming droughts could have been better executed.
A report conducted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration warned India of steep decreases in groundwater throughout its northern provinces. In response to the incoming drought, Indian officials further worsened the problem by depleting wells and reservoirs. In short, India’s mismanagement of the nation’s water supply left the country vulnerable to dealing with atmospheric irregularities like El Niño. The illegal removal of sand from riverbeds has also further contributed to the drought. According to the NYTimes article, sand allows water to percolate into underground aquifers. With sand being removed my mafias to supply concrete for the nation’s construction boom, less water has the capability of being stored.
India’s infrastructure must be curated to address the growing concerns of drought in instances of temporal irregularities. To address the current disaster, the BBC reports that India will diverting its rivers to address drought affected areas. The initiative will transfer water from 30 different links, 14 of which fed by Himalayan glaciers, and 16 which will come from India proper including major rivers like the Brahmaputra and the Ganges.
Environmentalists and critics of the initiative argue that the project could have disastrous financial and environmental results. “The project is based on the idea of diverting water from where it is surplus to dry areas but there has been no scientific study yet on which places have more water and which ones less,” said Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network for Dams, Rivers, and People. Nevertheless, the project hopes to irrigate over 35,000 hectares of land and generate 34,000 megawatts of electricity.
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